INTERVIEW: Skinny Lister talk jellied eels, chicken nuggets and their love of London

1146

With their album Down On Deptford Broadway set to release April 21, an album best described as a love-child between Flogging Molly and the Gaslight Anthem, there is a lot for Skinny Lister to be excited about. Working with producer Ted Hutt (Chuck Ragan, Flogging Molly) on the album, the band have stepped over the line of folk, entering into a folk-punk style that makes for an energetic live performance. Substream got a chance to sit down with the humble band after opening for Frank Turner at the FLOOD Fest party this past SXSW.

Would you  mind introducing yourselves and what you play in the band?
DANIEL: I play guitar and sing.
MAX: I play the accordion and mandolin.
LORNA: I show off. [Laughs.]
MICHAEL: I show off! Oh, and also play bass.
MULE: I play the electric guitar.
THOM: I play drums.

Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with us during your busy schedule at SXSW. How have you enjoyed yourselves so far?
DANIEL: This is our third SXSW, so we are veterans now. [Laughs.]
LORNA: He’s always been an asshole. [Laughs.]

Has it been different at all this time around?
MICHAEL: I feel like it’s been smoother this time around. I feel like two years ago we came and it was longer and… I don’t know, its just bizarre, I just feel like we know what we are doing this time around. It’s more smooth and it just fell into place really easily.
LORNA: It’s not feeling very smooth for me today, that’s true.
DANIEL: It’s always a little bit chaotic, there’s a lot of gigs in a short space of time. We just came straight from one gig this morning. Literally we were onstage here and half an hour later you grab your gear and off you go. But that’s SXSW.

What’s up next for your guys after SXSW?
MICHAEL: We are doing three weeks in Europe. U.K., Germany, Netherlands, and we are touring with Chuck Ragan, which will be awesome.

That’s awesome, he is a super-nice guy.
MICHAEL: Yeah he is super-nice!
DANIEL: Yeah he actually gave me a little tip on not snapping strings on my guitar and I still use that, his method, and I haven’t snapped a string since. [Laughs.] Cheers, Chuck!

So I watched your video for “Cathy” and I have to know, whose idea was it to eat jellied eels?
DANIEL: It was mine—we always argue about this after we talk about it.
MAX: I thought of eggs!
MICHAEL: Then Dan’s like, “Let’s make this worse.”
LORNA: Hang on a minute! I put the eating competition in there ’cause I wanted to do something like pie, and I thought that sounded nice. I agreed to that, and then we talked about pickled eggs, but I had already done that and lost, dreadfully. They are the worst thing in the world. They are like rubbery chicken eggs in vinegar, they are the driest thing in the world, and I ate two and I lost. So, I wasn’t up for that one, and then I thought jellied eels which I sort of agreed to that.
MICHAEL: Jellied eels are…
LORNA: They are a delicacy!
MICHAEL: Yeah, a delicacy in England.
DANIEL: In London they are a tradition. You eat a pie and mash and jellied eels.
MAX: If you couldn’t afford to buy decent food, then you eat jellied eels.
MICHAEL: Yeah they are for poor people.
LORNA: They are expensive, though!
DANIEL: Apparently they are now endangered and some people are not very happy with that video because we demolished quite a lot of jellied eel. But I wouldn’t recommend them, they taste disgusting.

Yeah, they didn’t look that good in the video.
LORNA: The pub we did that in was in Hastings and it’s a known fishing town. That pub is for the fisherman really, it’s like a real local pub. And the jellied eels that we didn’t eat, we left behind and as we left the pub, they all had a bowl and they just bloody love them. I don’t want to diss jellied eels ’cause you might like them.
MICHAEL: If you like things that suck. [Laughs.]
LORNA: If you are under pressure to eat a lot of them and you’ve got everybody around you, and not being able to swallow them… I actually didn’t think they were too bad.
MAX: There’s nothing wrong with them, these guys are just a bunch of wet blankets really. We could have tried a bit harder, they are a bit tasty. They slip down quite easily.

So your new album comes out April 21. Was there something in particular you wanted to say with it compared to your first album, Flaggan?
DANIEL: Consciously I don’t think they was something we wanted to say. But it’s quite a London-based album, where the first one was a bit more rural, this one is a bit more city and London-based, so there is a lot of songs about London in there. And I think just generally the feel of it, we tried to make it a bit more…energetic, than the first one. We introduced the drums in this album, so everything’s got a little bit more of a kick than in the first album. The core of it though is still Skinny Lister.

What is “Down On Deptford Broadway” exactly, is it a street?
DANIEL: Deptford is an area in southeast London that a lot of us spent a lot of our youth, and it sort of means a lot to us. It’s a little bit nostalgic for us now ’cause we’ve all moved away from London.
MAX: I think a lot of the album has a nostalgic feel to it. A lot of the songs are singing about a place that we have sort of met and also about feeling things and looking at the past.
DANIEL: But, we are still looking forward at the same time. [Laughs.]

What were some of the thoughts you had after the album was done? Like, the first time you got to listen to it?
DANIEL: I’m sick of this! [Laughs.]
LORNA: I’ve listened to it a couple times and I feel really proud, and I think it’s a good reflection of us. It’s got the energy that you want, but we are already looking onto writing the next album.
MICHAEL: Yeah by December we’ll already be writing another album.
LORNA: We gonna get it out then onto the next one, and the next one, and the next one!

As far as different topics that went into the album, was there anything else that you felt you touched upon?
DANIEL: Um, what are the themes?
MICHAEL: Drinking in pubs!
LORNA: Dan generally writes about somewhere in London, crazy women, and a little bit of beer, not a lot. We’re more than just a beer band
MAX: Yeah, like “Cathy” is an ode to addiction and sort of the discomfort that can bring. If I was to look at it as a whole piece, it has a nostalgic theme, but I feel like each song has a different feel to it.
LORNA: I think “Trouble On Oxford Street” is a special thing because traditionally we are a folk band and play folk music, and this album is stepping away from that, but we are creating a real folk tale when Dan got kicked in on Oxford Street. It’s a true story, like many folk songs are. It’s a true account of how Dan got a little bit too drunk and acted like an idiot.
DANIEL: In addition to the up-tempo that we’ve become known for live, there is a couple of real quiet moments on there. We’ve got a song called “Bonny Away” and one called “The Dreich” and they’re love songs, really. They’re a bit of a breath of fresh air when you want a rest from the party.

What’s some music that you are jamming to right now?
LORNA: I really like a band called the Do, they are Scandinavian and she’s got a beautiful voice, and you might be surprised cause it’s a little electronic, but I love it a lot and I could listen to it all day everyday.
DANIEL: I love a guy called James York, he is a Scottish singer/songwriter, but he is a little bit of an antidote to Skinny Lister and gives me a little bit of downtime. He has really beautiful songwriting.
LORNA: He has actually written a song called “St. Patrick” and we had that on yesterday morning, it was a nice way to wake up.
MICHAEL: I just got into the new Cold War Kids album. I’m a little late in the game for it, but it’s still really good. I also like this band called Shovels And Rope, they are also really good. Kind of like bluegrassy, Americana band.
MAX: I really like Bob Boilen on All Songs Considered. [Laughs.] I’ve been listening to a lot of his sort-of playlists. We were lucky enough to play one of his Tiny Desk Concerts and ever since I met him, he has been such an inspirational fella, he sort of made me want to be a radio DJ. [Laughs.] I think that’s how you tell when you’ve met somebody that has an amazing aura, you kind of just want to do what they do for like a week. That wore off, but I still listen to his show regularly.
MULE: I just discovered this amazing female singer/songwriter, she is basically piano based, her name is Agnus Obel. I think she has been out for a few years now, but she has got some magical piano sounds and I’ve fallen in love with her, check it out!
THOM: Hm, there’s loads of stuff. I like the band Girl Band, they are pretty cool. And I can’t think of any bands now, but there are loads of good new music.

Final question, what are you most excited about in the near future? Besides the album being released, of course.
DANIEL: Well, we are looking forward to coming back to America in September. We love coming back here and we love coming back to the U.K. to rest and play, but we always get a bit restless and want to come back to play shows here. I’m looking forward to that later in the year.
LORNA: We’re releasing the album on InGrooves so we are looking forward to coming back and doing a bit of press and traveling and eating [McDonald’s] on the road.
EVERYONE ELSE: Noooooo.
LORNA: Chicken nuggets! It’s my weakness!